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Profane Miracles
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2017 06:20:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Esoterrorists clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page blank, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So famous financier Jonathan Bentley was recently resurrected from beyond the pale in a rather public manner, at a charity ball of his widow Grace Summerville, and this feat was achieved by the famed psychic Cassandra Madrigal. The OV-agents are sent in with cover identities as investigative reporters. That's the basic premise.

Behind the scenes, resentment has festered between Jonathan and his wife - she was smarter and always one step ahead, the true brains of his enormous success...and thus he faked his death with an esoterrorist drug named Fatalix, which also acts as a drug...if Bentley stops heeding the call of the esoterrorist Dellinger, he'll withhold the drug. Bentley thus has fallen deeply into the control of the movement and the gambit of the esoterrorists (the medium is, obviously, a pawn as well) has paid off - Cassandra has retreated from business to live with her secretly loathsome husband, who has also, in his decadence, sired an illicit child - something that the investigators can find out...and the child is horrifically disfigured and can provide a hint regarding the involvement of the financier and his predicament.

The investigators will find a strange substance used by Cassandra during the ritual in the initial investigation of the big gala; it is this substance that will provide a clue. Cassandra, as mentioned before, is pretty much a well-meaning patsy and ultimately can point the investigators towards a street vendor of the occult and esoterrorist operative, one Vincent Marlowe, and point towards a large-scale order by Bentley financials - and yes, a nice chase may ensue here.

Blissfully unaware of the loathsome character of her husband returned from the dead, Grace can be convinced when faced with evidence (or smart investigators) provides access to the GPS-tracker and thus the PCs can track down Dellinger's sanctuary. Here, an ODE, the dementia larvae and Marlowe prepare for a showdown, while Bentley lies comatose and a journal etc. fills in the undoubtedly at this point numerous blanks. There is still some crucial stuff to decide: There is an antidote, but it can either save Jonathan or his illicit child, not both... and there is still the matter at hand to stop Dellinger's plans for a bigger ritual, on live TV - here, a series of obstacles provide some serious customization - and ultimately may boil down to another dangerous boss fight against an ODE created from a very strange Cassandra. The pdf does mention dealing with the two women harmed by the schemes here and the appendix depicting the dementia larva.

...did you notice something? Yeah, neither the actions of Bentley, nor those of Dellinger, make any sense whatsoever to me. I read the module multiple times and it's REALLY, really hard to make heads or tails of them - hence the sudden, convenient journal-exposition dump. Worse, saving Jonathan suddenly makes him realize his love for Grace? SERIOUSLY? That bit had me frothing at the mouth. And this very public figure faked his death for a whole year, while indulging on sprees of decadence with drugs and hookers? Seriously, this module expects you to buy a lot of BS for a system that is based on logical investigation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no glaring accumulations of glitches. Layout adheres to a b/w-two-column standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artwork and cartography. The pdf I have does not sport bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

I am sorry, I really love Esoterrorists. But Leonard Balsera's Profane Miracles is not a good module, to put it lightly. The motivations of the antagonists are jumbled, its shock-values are for shock only, the whole plan of the antagonists makes no sense whatsoever and the climax violates, to a degree, the summoning paradigms provided by the Summoning Guide. In short, the logic bugs herein not only extend to the meta-level, they can also be found on an in-game level. The exposition-dump that basically jams the whole story down the PC's throats had folks groan at my table, complete with plenty of question marks above their heads. If you just want cheese-and-crackers-no-brains gameplay, this may do something for you...but why are you playing this investigative game then? If you want an actually good, action-packed Esoterrorist module, go for Six-Packed instead - it is much more rewarding and not such a structural mess. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Profane Miracles
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:28:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, as always, we do receive pregens included in this adventure; furthermore, while intended for characters of 4th level, though scaling information for 5th level heroes are included - for more ideas regarding scaling/structure and sidetrek insertion, the great Campaign Guide has you covered there.

The module also takes off the shackles of the AP - it represents the first free-form module in the AP, in fact, we have an investigation on our hands (on that also may have the PCs meet more movers and shakers of the AP)...but more on that below!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs are walking down a street...and witness a catatonic man, potentially soon to fall victim to congregating psychic motes. After having dealt with the supernatural pests, the PCs will have a mystery on their hands...one that will lead them, sooner or later, to the Explorer's Guild - and, unbeknown to them, in contact with one of the most powerful entities in the city, but that just as an aside. (And yes, I'm not being more specific here for a reason...) - it seems like someone is targeting explorers, namely a subsect of the guild devoted to hedonism. The investigation will also put the PCs in contact with the hospices, hinting at the healing capabilities of the city being...well...less than ideal.

It seems like "blanks" have been popping up and so, it is up to the PCs to investigate the strange occurrences. This would be as good a place as any to note a peculiarity of the module I at once love and wish it was even more pronounced: The antagonists take heed of the local talk and the more the PCs ask around during their legwork, the more attention they'll attract...and the more deadly the final encounters will be: Very sneaky PCs may find almost no resistance, whereas PCs botching this section may well witness a seriously twisted array of traps.

Ultimately, the trail puts the PCs on the trail of the strange drug "Bliss" (stats are provided...and they note an "alchemical penalty - which is a bit odd to my sensibilities and getting through withdrawal is pretty easy...) - and from here on out, the PCs may find addicts being drained by strange creatures - a chase ensues and the PCs get a chance to kill the creature...but who sent it? The being, none too smart, may spill the beans and it may partially lead to a curiously absent Luther Mendel of the Botanical Society (more on that in the optional module "The Gourd", contained in the Campaign Guide) - but in the end, the trail leads to Damian, the kind alchemist the PCs met at the end of the prologue...which is a bit odd. After all, he didn't feel evil, right? Well, his dangerous apprentices and a whole tower rigged to explode may beg to differ...and the finale pits the PCs against Damian, while Triast, commander of the Seekers crashes the party...and worse, a gigantic tentacle monster attacks from below, making the finale a free-for-all with two very powerful NPCs...and while none wants to really kill the PCs, that can be a bit problematic, particularly considering that Damian needs to escape and will do so in a kind of cutscene. That...can be somewhat problematic. Speaking of which: The brooch that is somewhat problematic in its wording in PFRPG works better in the 5e-version.

Speaking of the conversion: The conversion by Ismael Alvarez actually fixes the damage type oversights in the PFRPG-version...and it deserves special applause for the fact that it codifies PFRPG's alchemist abilities in a meaningful and concise manner in 5e for the NPCs featured herein. While not 100% perfect, it's pretty close...so yeah, kudos indeed there - and since those are NPCoptions, it works! Even better: Guess what: The chase, represented in the amazing side-view of this one block of houses, with different height-levels etc. - it has been converted. Yes, this actually has chase-rules for 5e and an extensive explanation of how the process works!! Seriously, big kudos!

That being said, the mystery of the memory thieves is seemingly solved and Damian's cryptic parting words, implying that the tentacle monster would be a reason why he can't stop, hint at worse things afoot...and prompt the initial motivation for module #3...

Conclusion:

Editing is better in 5e than in the PFRPG-version - the damage types are concise, teh rules-language well-made. Formatting in statblocks once again does diverge a bit from standards - things that should be italicized aren't, but apart from that, the pdf goes the extra mile here. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is really, really nice. The copious amounts of full-color artwork make the module aesthetically-pleasing and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. PURE AMAZING: The chase comes with a high-res side-view representation that you can slowly unveil AND the maps of the relevant places come with player-friendly versions as high-res jpgs - sans traps etc. BIG kudos there! The pdfs come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is really nice, as always with Pyromaniac Press.

Micah Watt's "Ignorance is Bliss" puts down the kiddie gloves. This investigation hints at the darker themes, makes the sidetreks in the Campaign Guide viable further routes of inquiry and finally provides some freedom, offering a wide variety of angles to pursue and options to consider. I really like how "asking around" and the actions of the PCs influence the module's outcome; I love the chase...but at the same time, from a plot perspective, I think that it would have made sense to feature the two antagonists in the final encounter in module #1 as well - if the PCs have not played the prologue, they will have NO relationship with the BB-Not-so-evil-G. That is a pretty significant potential stumbling stone. Similarly, after establishing the importance of travel options in adventure #1, I would have loved to see that matter a bit more, but that may be me.

You know what's rather impressive? The conversion herein goes the extra mile in several cases and while it is not 100% perfect, the attention to detail and care is rather nice to see, impressive even! So yeah, for what it is, I do consider the 5e-version to be slightly better this time around, also thanks to Ismael Alvarez going the extra mile. That being said, unfortunately, I still can't rate this the full five stars, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:26:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, as always, we do receive pregens included in this adventure; furthermore, while intended for characters of 4th level, though scaling information for 5th level heroes are included - for more ideas regarding scaling/structure and sidetrek insertion, the great Campaign Guide has you covered there.

The module also takes off the shackles of the AP - it represents the first free-form module in the AP, in fact, we have an investigation on our hands (on that also may have the PCs meet more movers and shakers of the AP)...but more on that below!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs are walking down a street...and witness a catatonic man, potentially soon to fall victim to congregating psychic motes. After having dealt with the supernatural pests, the PCs will have a mystery on their hands...one that will lead them, sooner or later, to the Explorer's Guild - and, unbeknown to them, in contact with one of the most powerful entities in the city, but that just as an aside. (And yes, I'm not being more specific here for a reason...) - it seems like someone is targeting explorers, namely a subsect of the guild devoted to hedonism. The investigation will also put the PCs in contact with the hospices, hinting at the healing capabilities of the city being...well...less than ideal.

It seems like "blanks" have been popping up and so, it is up to the PCs to investigate the strange occurrences. This would be as good a place as any to note a peculiarity of the module I at once love and wish it was even more pronounced: The antagonists take heed of the local talk and the more the PCs ask around during their legwork, the more attention they'll attract...and the more deadly the final encounters will be: Very sneaky PCs may find almost no resistance, whereas PCs botching this section may well witness a seriously twisted array of traps.

Ultimately, the trail puts the PCs on the trail of the strange drug "Bliss" - and from here on out, the PCs may find addicts being drained by strange creatures - a chase ensues and the PCs get a chance to kill the creature...but who sent it? The being, none too smart, may spill the beans and it may partially lead to a curiously absent Luther Mendel of the Botanical Society (more on that in the optional module "The Gourd", contained in the Campaign Guide) - but in the end, the trail leads to Damian, the kind alchemist the PCs met at the end of the prologue...which is a bit odd. After all, he didn't feel evil, right? Well, his dangerous apprentices and a whole tower rigged to explode may beg to differ...and the finale pits the PCs against Damian, while Triast, commander of the Seekers crashes the party...and worse, a gigantic tentacle monster attacks from below, making the finale a free-for-all with two very powerful NPCs...and while none wants to really kill the PCs, that can be a bit problematic, particularly considering that Damian needs to escape and will do so in a kind of cutscene. That...can be somewhat problematic. Speaking of which: There is a broken brooch magic item here - I'd STRONGLY suggest GMs not handing it out - while its visuals are nice, its benefits are very potent

That being said, the mystery of the memory thieves is seemingly solved and Damian's cryptic parting words, implying that the tentacle monster would be a reason why he can't stop, hint at worse things afoot...and prompt the initial motivation for module #3...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though the rules-language of e.g. the magic item isn't perfect and minor hiccups like improperly-formatted traps can be found. Cases of e.g. what obviously should be fire damage lacking the "fire" type can also be found. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is really, really nice. The copious amounts of full-color artwork make the module aesthetically-pleasing and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. PURE AMAZING: The chase comes with a high-res side-view representation that you can slowly unveil AND the maps of the relevant places come with player-friendly versions as high-res jpgs - sans traps etc. BIG kudos there! The pdfs come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is really nice, as always with Pyromaniac Press.

Micah Watt's "Ignorance is Bliss" puts down the kiddie gloves. This investigation hints at the darker themes, makes the sidetreks in the Campaign Guide viable further routes of inquiry and finally provides some freedom, offering a wide variety of angles to pursue and options to consider. I really like how "asking around" and the actions of the PCs influence the module's outcome; I love the chase...but at the same time, from a plot perspective, I think that it would have made sense to feature the two antagonists in the final encounter in module #1 as well - if the PCs have not played the prologue, they will have NO relationship with the BB-Not-so-evil-G. That is a pretty significant potential stumbling stone. Similarly, after establishing the importance of travel options in adventure #1, I would have loved to see that matter a bit more, but that may be me. Ultimately, this is a cool module and represents a transition in themes and does so rather well. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Feats of Legend: 20 Orc Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:23:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

-Fight Impulse: 1/day enter rage as an immediate action as a response to a fear effect, provided you can enter it. Solid.

-Focused Fury: 1/rage make a full-attack as though you used Power Attack, but sans penalties. Benefits do not apply to AoOs. While nasty for rage-cycling builds, these already constitute cheesy builds, so yeah.

-Hachetman: Treat handaxes as though they were a warpriest sacred weapon at -4 levels.

-Iron Fist: Gain a slam attack, properly codified as primary; may be taken again for a second slam attack.

-Language of Power: +1 DC for all evocations when casting while speaking orc. Minor complaint: The wording would be clearer if the pdf just specified that the bonus applies to spells with verbal components only; "Speaking orc" covers that, yes, but RAW, you could try to speak a somatic-only spell that way and the interaction becomes a bit wobbly. This is, however, a purely aesthetic gripe.

-Mountaineer: Gain climb speed equal to 1/2 base speed while wearing light or no armor.

-Lockjaw: Requires a bite attack and lets you execute it as part of maintaining a grapple; if you hit, you gain a bonus to maintain it.

-One with the Night: Nets Stealth bonus as well as +1d6 damage versus flat-footed allies in areas of dim light or darkness - should probably be codified as precision damage. Kudos: Does not apply to spells - nice cheese avoidance there.

-Sacred Scarring: Requires 5th level and Ironhide, nets 25% chance to ignore crits and precision damage.

-Scent of Evil: Detect evil (not properly italicized) as a conical SP, as you can literally smell evil.

-Second Wind:1/day as a swift action remove the fatigued condition, +1/day use at 5th level, capping at Con-mod. Nice!

-Second Skin: Reduce ACP, increase max Dex-mod for armors.

-Shaman's Apprentice: +2 initiative, +4 to concentration checks to defensively cast cure-spells. "Cure" is not italicized, so not sure if only the spells with it in the name, or conjuration [healing] spells in general are meant.

-Sheathing the Blade: If you have a free hand (you may drop held objects as an immediate action) and an enemy crits you, you may make a disarm attempt as an AoO that is resolved AFTER the attack. Complex, evocative, cool!

-Take You Down With Me: You gain a final AoO upon being reduced to or below 0 hp, even if the attack kills you. This is also resolved after the attack reduced you to 0 hp or below.

-Troll Blood: Gain increased healing when subjected to it, have a 50% chance to stop bleeding...but also take slightly more damage from acid and lose this ability temporarily when doing so. Cool!

-Troll Flesh: Gain fast healing 1 when unconscious, but lose this feat and the previous feat's benefits for 3 rounds when taking fire damage. Cool!

-Vicious Wounds: Add +1d6 bleed damage when hitting a foe with a light or one-handed piercing weapon while the foe is flat-footed or flanked. Nice!

-Words of Power: Cast all evocation spells with verbal components at +1 CL if you speak orc while casting them.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring issues in rules-language or formal criteria. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports two gorgeous orc-artworks in full color. Big plus: The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with each feat properly bookmarked. Kudos!

Neal Litherland delivers something rather impressive - a feat-book, at this stage in the game, that I actually consider worth getting. I'm not kidding you - even after all of these feat-books I've read, I consider this worthwhile: While not every feat herein is brilliant, they all have something going for them - either by virtue of being interesting, flavorful, or both. As a whole, I consider this very much worthwhile and worthy of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Kudos!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Orc Feats
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5E Mini-Dungeon #025: The Phase Spider Lair
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:20:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

It should be noted that this mini-dungeon was kinda first created for 5E -in PFRPG the module originally pitted the PCs against chokers.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The mountain town of Kraga has seen many changes over the course of its existence - what once was a dwarven town is now a border settlement and the canals of the settlement now run through the strange, lost settlement. A string of disappearances brought the PCs into this complex...and indeed, we have a strong leitmotif here, namely that of arachnid foes, with phase spiders, ettercaps and the like...and basilisks also can be found here. Skill-wise, PCs should try to avoid coming in contact with the sewer plague...and the worst encounter here can be avoided by smart PCs. Loot-wise, a cloak of elvenkind represents the most potent item herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of b/w-art - kudos!

Jonathan Ely's phase spider lair is a fun, no-frills module with a nice leitmotif. It's not a spectacular offering, but it does its job relatively well. The conversion does a decent job as well. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #025: The Phase Spider Lair
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A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:52:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the "What Lies Beyond Reason AP" (if you don't count the optional prologue) clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This has been moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

All right, while intended for 2nd level, it should be noted that scaling information for level 3 are included; similarly, if you dislike magical airships/basic steamtech, the module does mention how to deal with that. (It should be noted that more detailed theme-tweaking advice can be found in the impressive Campaign Guide). The pdf comes with pregens.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so this module is...structurally another railroad and cognizant of this fact. That being said, it is radically different from the prologue and it arguably functions in a completely different manner. Since the PCs have arrived in the vast metropolis of Anduria, this module could be considered to be a massive "setting the stage"-experience - it is a "show/play, don't tell"-style approach to familiarizing the players as well as the PCs with the city and, before you put this down, rest assured that later modules are more freeform.

Okay, so we rejoin the PCs after they have rejuvenated from their ordeal in the prologue and meet up (in a tavern - a cliché acknowledged by the module), they are contacted by a weird man named Thaddeus Billargo, an almost Elon Musk-ish merchant/visionary who hires them to get a shipment from the PTC (Peregrine Trade Consortium - think of them as a kind of nasty trade conglomerate) - he had a falling-out with the company and hence needs capable PCs to handle the job. He also grants a weird, blue flower to the PCs. The job seems simple and the deadline is generous, even though the PCs have to travel quite a bit through the metropolis to reach the PTC. Emphasis, obviously, should be placed on "seems".

You see, when I stated that this is a "setting the stage type of module", I was referring to two aspects: This, for one, introduces interesting locations and a general knowledge of the city and also establishes a base-line of contacts/dramatis personae. The timeline mentioned will become rather important, as the PCs choose their respective travel method: From going on foot/carriage) to taking ships through the channel to using air ships or hippogriffon chariots (!!!), en route travel encounters galore are included - and those you don't end up using can be employed/scaled later...and yes, these are pretty cool. Unlike in the PFRPG-version, I can't complain about an absence of vehicle-stats here. On the way, the PCs will also be introduced to the methods of the seekers of Asmodeus (and have a chance to foil them at their own game) and may be drawn into the machinations of a bored (and rather nasty) aristocrat... That being said, the travel time summaries etc. are pretty cool!

But back to the plot: The PTC, characterized by some serious bureaucracy and not too compliant, is stone-walling the PCs...but, you see, the nasty and rather devious bureaucrat in charge of their paperwork is missing his assistant, who hasn't shown up/quit for a while, all in favor of a dame called Lysenese, one of the ladies working as scholars/high-class escorts/prostitutes at the Celestial Scriptorium. The PCs will grace this unique institution with their presence next, and here, they'll encounter the sentient adamantine golem Adam, blissfully ignorant of the ways of mortals and a kind of tabula rasa regarding knowledge and social interaction, at least apart from basic personality...a potentially potent ally, though also one that can cause serious trouble. The lady tells the PCs that she has tried to dissuade the love-struck PTC-clerk Trevel Antivar, but in one of the discourse-only sessions, she had mentioned a fabled flower that supposedly blooms within a local landmark, the tower of the rose: This tower looks like it has been overgrown, kudzu-style, by razor-sharp thorns and traversing the narrow planks to the top of the tower will be interesting...as will be getting down inside...where, ultimately, the PCs will descend through the tower into the sewers and meet "The Entity" -a swarm-intelligence that seems to be able to assume control over a wide variety of beings...including the missing (and severely wounded) Trevel.

Now, the manner of how which Radiant Soul, mistress of the scriptorium's researching capabilities are noted is somewhat odd and while generally, the 5e-material has been converted rather well, e.g. the bladeleaf hazard is still missing its damage type, which is a pretty big deal in 5e's rules-terminology. Another weakness of the 5e-version would be that all stats-blocks have instances where they deviate in formatting from the established conventions, with italicizations missing and the like. Not to an extent where it's bad, mind you - e.g. damaging objects and similar things all have been properly covered, but personally, it does irk me a bit. The same can be said about a magic item included, which slightly deviates from the formatting conventions.

To free Trevel from the entity's grasp, the PCs will have to eliminate a powerful otyugh - who makes for a brutal boss in 5e! This frees Trevel, but he is still love-struck and convinced that bringing Lysenese the flower will grant him her favor - a fool's errand, but deductive PCs may realize that the blue flower gained in the beginning is just that sought-after flower. Getting Trevel to pull back will yield the PC's the favor of the scriptorium. Ultimately, one way or another, Trevel will return and help against the insidious bureaucrat, thus freeing the goods...and concluding this interesting, not so simple job!

Conclusion:

Editing is very good, though formatting can be considered to be in need of a bit of improvement - the pdf does deviate from established 5e-formatting in a few places. Layout adheres to a professional and well-made two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The softcover is nice and has neat colors and sports A LOT of really nice full-color artworks. The adventure comes with an archive that contains the maps in a player-friendly, key-less version - big kudos!! The electronic version is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt's "A Simple Job" is a surprisingly kind-natured and upbeat module: While a bit of the weird can be found, it is very subdued and generally paints a positive, nice and fantastic picture of the eternal city: The characters even can encounter some seriously funny scenes - Adam e.g. inquiring whether PCs are not properly "equipped" to deal with the ladies and similarly non-explicit quips, a generally upbeat mood and some high-fantasy wonder all conspire to make this module feel like a nice and flavorful introduction to the city and its traveling, with the free-form travel encounters (mapped, btw.!) adding some GM-control there.

As of the 5e-version, Ismael Alvarez has done an excellent job for the most part - while I could find a couple of hiccups, the important bits have been carefully and thoroughly converted in a rather nice manner. This can be considered to be a good conversion.

That being said, this is still a railroad in the vein of Ultima 7-questlines, where quest upon quest is heaped upon another in a linear manner. The respective vignettes are nice, yes, but if your players are like mine, they may not be too happy with this aspect. It does speak for the module's quality that the vignettes, locations and NPCs can somewhat counteract this structural deficiency, but in the end, a good railroad still remains a railroad. This is a good one, but setting up two relatively linear modules, back to back, isn't the best idea - it works here, but I was pretty happy to see #2 deviate from this formula. It should be noted that the 5E-version of this module is BRUTAL and NOT for the faint of heart. The boss has over 100 hp! Whether you like that or not depends on the group; personally, I love the challenge and it is an encounter that can be somewhat controlled by the PCs, but in comparison to PFRPG, it is a noticeable difficulty spike...one that means that the module doesn't "peter out", but also one that will have some players shocked.

The rating? Well, this ultimately is a good module - it sports a lot of prose and read-aloud text, evocative locales and introduces some seriously cool NPCs...but ultimately, I can't go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. PERSONALLY, I actually like the 5E-version better. The brutal final boss adds a serious touch of pain to the module that I was kinda missing in PFRPG...but that can go both ways and some groups may consider this to be a bit much, so GMs, take care there.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:50:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the "What Lies Beyond Reason AP" (if you don't count the optional prologue) clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This has been moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

All right, while intended for 2nd level, it should be noted that scaling information for level 3 are included; similarly, if you dislike magical airships/basic steamtech, the module does mention how to deal with that. (It should be noted that more detailed theme-tweaking advice can be found in the impressive Campaign Guide). The pdf comes with pregens.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so this module is...structurally another railroad and cognizant of this fact. That being said, it is radically different from the prologue and it arguably functions in a completely different manner. Since the PCs have arrived in the vast metropolis of Anduria, this module could be considered to be a massive "setting the stage"-experience - it is a "show/play, don't tell"-style approach to familiarizing the players as well as the PCs with the city and, before you put this down, rest assured that later modules are more freeform.

Okay, so we rejoin the PCs after they have rejuvenated from their ordeal in the prologue and meet up (in a tavern - a cliché acknowledged by the module), they are contacted by a weird man named Thaddeus Billargo, an almost Elon Musk-ish merchant/visionary who hires them to get a shipment from the PTC (Peregrine Trade Consortium - think of them as a kind of nasty trade conglomerate) - he had a falling-out with the company and hence needs capable PCs to handle the job. He also grants a weird, blue flower to the PCs. The job seems simple and the deadline is generous, even though the PCs have to travel quite a bit through the metropolis to reach the PTC. Emphasis, obviously, should be placed on "seems".

You see, when I stated that this is a "setting the stage type of module", I was referring to two aspects: This, for one, introduces interesting locations and a general knowledge of the city and also establishes a base-line of contacts/dramatis personae. The timeline mentioned will become rather important, as the PCs choose their respective travel method: From going on foot/carriage) to taking ships through the channel to using air ships or hippogriffon chariots (!!!), en route travel encounters galore are included - and those you don't end up using can be employed/scaled later...and yes, these are pretty cool. On a nitpicky side, the uncommon vehicles could have used some proper vehicle stats. On the way, the PCs will also be introduced to the methods of the seekers of Asmodeus (and have a chance to foil them at their own game) and may be drawn into the machinations of a bored (and rather nasty) aristocrat... That being said, the travel time summaries etc. are pretty cool!

But back to the plot: The PTC, characterized by some serious bureaucracy and not too compliant, is stone-walling the PCs...but, you see, the nasty and rather devious bureaucrat in charge of their paperwork is missing his assistant, who hasn't shown up/quit for a while, all in favor of a dame called Lysenese, one of the ladies working as scholars/high-class escorts/prostitutes at the Celestial Scriptorium. The PCs will grace this unique institution with their presence next, and here, they'll encounter the sentient adamantine golem Adam, blissfully ignorant of the ways of mortals and a kind of tabula rasa regarding knowledge and social interaction, at least apart from basic personality...a potentially potent ally, though also one that can cause serious trouble. The lady tells the PCs that she has tried to dissuade the love-struck PTC-clerk Trevel Antivar, but in one of the discourse-only sessions, she had mentioned a fabled flower that supposedly blooms within a local landmark, the tower of the rose: This tower looks like it has been overgrown, kudzu-style, by razor-sharp thorns and traversing the narrow planks to the top of the tower will be interesting...as will be getting down inside...where, ultimately, the PCs will descend through the tower into the sewers and meet "The Entity" -a swarm-intelligence that seems to be able to assume control over a wide variety of beings...including the missing (and severely wounded) Trevel.

This would be another place to insert an observation - the bladeleaf hazard does not have its damage type properly codified and it honestly could be a bit more precise in its presentation; it may just be a minor thing, but such small hiccups do show up.

To free him from the entity's grasp, the PCs will have to eliminate a powerful otyugh. This frees Trevel, but he is still love-struck and convinced that bringing Lysenese the flower will grant him her favor - a fool's errand, but deductive PCs may realize that the blue flower gained in the beginning is just that sought-after flower. Getting Trevel to pull back will yield the PC's the favor of the scriptorium. Ultimately, one way or another, Trevel will return and help against the insidious bureaucrat, thus freeing the goods...and concluding this interesting, not so simple job!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no particularly grievous glitches, though the absence of vehicle stats etc. is a bit jarring. Layout adheres to a professional and well-made two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The softcover is nice and has neat colors and sports A LOT of really nice full-color artworks. The adventure comes with an archive that contains the maps in a player-friendly, key-less version - big kudos!! The electronic version is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt's "A Simple Job" is a surprisingly kind-natured and upbeat module: While a bit of the weird can be found, it is very subdued and generally paints a positive, nice and fantastic picture of the eternal city: The characters even can encounter some seriously funny scenes - Adam e.g. inquiring whether PCs are not properly "equipped" to deal with the ladies and similarly non-explicit quips, a generally upbeat mood and some high-fantasy wonder all conspire to make this module feel like a nice and flavorful introduction to the city and its traveling, with the free-form travel encounters (mapped, btw.!) adding some GM-control there.

That being said, this is still a railroad in the vein of Ultima 7-questlines, where quest upon quest is heaped upon another in a linear manner. The respective vignettes are nice, yes, but if your players are like mine, they may not be too happy with this aspect. It does speak for the module's quality that the vignettes, locations and NPCs can somewhat counteract this structural deficiency, but in the end, a good railroad still remains a railroad. This is a good one, but setting up two relatively linear modules, back to back, isn't the best idea - it works here, but I was pretty happy to see #2 deviate from this formula. The rating? Well, this ultimately is a good module - it sports a lot of prose and read-aloud text, evocative locales and introduces some seriously cool NPCs...but ultimately, I can't go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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5E Mini-Dungeon #024: The Lapis Maiden of Serena Hortum
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:47:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The desert village of Serena Hortum is the backdrop of this module, with a local named Nadia looking for her missing sister - a beauty named Alucia. The trail leads to the estate of a merchant (a mage) called Bodigar - though, inside, the PCs are in for a nasty surprise: Bodigar has indeed abducted Alucia and his mansion does show enough indication of his depravities - the worst of which would be the statues in the garden, which also feature fair Alucia, transformed into stone by his pet basilisks. Bringing the vile merchant to justice will be an interesting task indeed!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of b/w-art - kudos!

Justin Andrew Mason's Mini-Dungeon is compelling - either as straight-forward hack and slay or as an infiltration, this one offers a nice story, a cool backdrop, diverse challenges and even a bit of social interaction, this is a great example of what can be done with a straight-forward, smart application of the limiting mini-dungeon-formula. Kyle Crider's conversion of the module is generally interesting and solid, though I wished it made more use of 5e's simple and easy to modify Stealth mechanics, but that may just be me. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #024: The Lapis Maiden of Serena Hortum
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5E Mini-Dungeon #023: The Aura of Profit
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:46:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

So, in the poor section of town, Fritz has an underground alchemist's laboratory - so why would the PCs try to stop Fitz? Well, his alchemist laboratory creates waste that makes people more susceptible to alcohol, which directly influences the profits of innkeepers all around. So, the PCs will have to stop Fritz - if only to prevent alcoholism skyrocketing. The dungeon as presented is surprisingly varied - we have an engineer-wizard, minor constructs (short-hand statblocks included) and some neat traps, some of which are obviously nonlethal. Big plus for the 5e-version: We get full stats for Fritz! Two thumbs up for going the extra mile there!

Oh, and know what's kinda cool? Fritz is not a bad guy - he can actually be convinced to make modifications that negate the detrimental effects of his alchemical refuse.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

This makes me happy, it really does - Rory Toma delivers a captivating, fun mini-dungeon herein - with things to do beyond killing everything, a mix of traps and roleplaying and an interesting "adversary." The topical background story also makes sense and opens potential for further adventuring - what if an evil character gets wind of Fritz' mixture? Kyle Crider thankfully has gone above and beyond in conversion: Diverse challenges, sample stats, hyperlinks all in order - no complaints on my part!

Seriously, what more can you ask for from a small, humble 2-page module? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars plus seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #023: The Aura of Profit
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Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:41:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting/hexcrawl clocks in at 283 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of index (VERY USEFUL!), leaving us with 274 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that the inside of the covers, respectively, contain gorgeous full-color hex-maps - inside the front cover, we get an overview, while inside the back cover, we gain an in-depth hex-crawl of one such hex, highlighting the sheer VASTNESS of Carcosa. As you can surmise, I actually own the hardcover, namely the second printing, which was provided by a generous patreon for the purposes of reviewing it at my convenience. I subsequently based my review mainly on the print edition, though it should be noted that maps etc. are all included in the pdf-version. The print-version's pages btw. have a very nice greenish-yellow, unhealthy-looking tint that is not consistent throughout the book; some sections are almost grey, some are greenish, some a bit more yellowish...this book looks almost alive, and in a twisted, twisted way. (And no, to my knowledge, there is no system behind these colors, at least none I could make out.) It should be noted that the pages are formatted for the A5 (6'' by 9'')-size of paper, so, if your eyesight's good enough, you can squeeze up to 4 pages on a regular sheet when printing this, but honestly, I'd suggest getting print here.

All right, so what is this book? Well, if you're not as well-versed in the OSR-scene, this book can conceivably be called one of the most influential books in that area, a book that imho defined how many of the different weird settings out there have been designed. For one, it is an incredibly hackable book - while there are rules herein, they are very rules-lite. As in: S&W, LL or LotFP look complex and detailed in comparison. These rules generally tie in with the setting and supplement it in several ways, but can, for the most part, be exchanged, tweaked or ignored - it is a vast plus of this book that pretty much nothing herein really requires that you use it with the rules presented within; adapting this to an OSR-setting, 5e or PFRPG just requires a bit of statting and that's it - the draw here lies within the idea, at least for me.

But let me start the review-proper the same way the book does:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink behind the lake,

The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies,

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,

Where flap the tatters of the King,

Must die unheard in

Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,

Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed

Shall dry and die in

Lost Carcosa.

-Robert W. Chambers

If you can read these lines sans a shudder, sans them gnawing into your brain, then kudos - to me, these lines are very much like a song that encapsulates the themes herein. That being said, the tone evoked here is grim; and while Carcosa is intended for mature audiences, it is actually not necessarily as dark as you'd imagine.

Let me elaborate: Carcosa is a world, where no elves or other Tolkienesque critters exist - instead, there are different races of men, with varying skin-colors that range from obsidian-black to translucent and also encompass the colors yale, ulfire and dolm -and yes, these are somewhat explained...and our inability to properly conceive them just adds a perfect piece of flavor to the proceedings.

Rules-wise, Carcosa assumes AC 12 as basis and an ascending AC and calls, at various times, for the random determination of dice to roll: Basically you roll a d20 and the higher you roll, the higher the dice you'll use - minimum d4, maximum d12. This procedure is used for combat as well, and, surprisingly, for hit points: You roll hit dice number of dice each combat anew: So one combat, you may be really tough...and during another...not so much. When hit dice are depleted, they are taken by the referee, which simulates, to a degree, wounding. It should come as no surprise to the adept number-cruncher that this system generates rather swingy performances; while this may fit to the opium/fever-dream-style haze that makes up so much of this setting's flair, it proved, at least for me and my group, not rewarding and was pretty much the first rules-component to get kicked out.

Carcosa, at least as written, knows three alignments - Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic, and they don't say anything about ethics: Lawful characters are generally opposed to the Great Old Ones, Chaotic characters generally serve them. That's it. Simple. Speaking of simple: Carcosa knows a staggering 2 classes: Fighter and sorceror. And no, sorcerors don't get to fling spells - instead, sorcerors can find rituals to enslave, banish, torment or otherwise interact with the Great Old Ones...and yes, conjure them. Basically, they have their very own ritual engine, but more on that later. Each ritual, just fyi, carries a risk of unnatural aging...with the exception of banishment rituals.

If you have very high mental attributes, you also have a small percentile chance of having access to psionics - there are 8 such powers and a d4 determines each day how many he has available. Psionics may be used 1/day, plus an additional time per day at every odd level, capping at 5 daily uses at 9th level. Rules-lite fans may applaud the lack of range for mindblasts and similar options, but personally, I prefer the crisp clarity of LotFP, S&W, LL, etc. - in short: The powers are not very well codified from a rules-analysis perspective. If you have access to another psionics sourcebook, I'd suggest using that instead, as what is here can be considered to be an afterthought.

Thankfully, this is the point where the rather subpar components of the rules-section end, for we receive precise effects various lotus-types...and space alien technology.

It is here that I feel I should talk about what Carcosa is: Do you know this mythic age of snake-men and weird skies that Sword & Sorcery novels like to allude to? Where everything was at once alien and advanced, yet almost stone-age primeval? That, to a degree, is Carcosa. The Great Old Ones roam the world, Shub-Niggurath's endless spawns inhabit the vast fields of Carcosa and entities are broken to the will of mortals, heeding their destructive call...if they do not break the mortals first. Carcosa is also a land where basically a science-fiction space alien civilization once crashed, with relics of strange devices, crashed ships, remnants of their tech, all littering the fields. This is, to a degree, a science-fantasy setting.

At the same time, Carcosa is a land of grotesque protoplasmic colossi, of dinosaurs and savage things, of civilizations with wildly diverging developments, held together by mastery or lack thereof of the mighty Great Old Ones; the technology of the mysterious Great Race representing another aspect of tech, namely the cthulhoid one, where technology is hazardous, extremely mighty and not made for humans. with flavorful artifacts like the spatial transference void, living monoliths and fecund protoplasmic pits begging to b inserted into any game, regardless of rules employed. So that would be the first aspect I'd very much consider a must-scavenge component.

The second would be the aforementioned sorcerous rituals - a total of 32 pages is devoted to these, all denoting their function in a handy formatting decision. Called The Lurker Amidst the Obsidian Ruins? You may need to torment the entity with "The Oozing Column" to get it to do your bidding! Here's the thing: Many of these rituals require rare and evocative components, some are tied to specific locales and...non-banishing rituals require often absolutely atrocious deeds. Control over these entities requires absolutely horrendously vile acts that should make such decisions very much a difficult endeavor, the obvious dangers of failure none withstanding. This may also be one of the reasons this is denoted as adult content...but if you do look for a concise collection of vile rituals for bad guys to use in your game, look no further than here - the chapter is twisted gold, gleaming in an unhealthy yale!

The next 36 pages of content are devoted to a massive bestiary of entities - from protoplamsic oozes to the Great Old Ones, we get stats for all of them...at least the basics. You know, Hit Dice, AC, No appearing and alignment as well as move rate. Psionics are noted, where applicable and the brief respective texts note special abilities and the like. Amazing: Great Old Ones that can be conjured, tormented, banished, controlled etc. also note their respective associated rituals, which makes this section, layout-wise, surprisingly user-friendly. Big kudos there! While the classics of the Mythos are included, I personally enjoyed the new ones featured herein more intriguing - the Shambler of the Endless Night or the Putrescent Stench, for example.

Now, I did mention that this was, beyond a campaign-kit, basically a colossal hex-crawl, right? 120 pages, to be more precise. Let that sink in. Even if I wanted to provide a highlight-reel here, I'd frankly not be capable of properly depicting the vast amount of adventures to be had in this massive section; these pages literally provide enough potential gaming material for YEARS. Even if your players will never set foot on Carcosa, this section once again proves to be a thoroughly compelling, amazing collection of the strange and wondrous. 20 sample spawn of Shub-Niggurath, a primer on humanity in Carcosa and random encounter tables complement this section before we arrive at a massive Spawn of Shub-Niggurath-generator...and, similarly scavenge-worthy would be the impressive space alien tech generator, the robot generator...and have I mentioned that the book actually codifies the different sorcerous rituals by use in its own appendix?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and really impressive, particularly for a book of this size. Layout adheres, as mentioned before, to a greenish/yellowish sickly page-color and a 1-column standard, with really evocative and copious original b/w-artworks by Rich Longmore. If that sort of thing annoys you, let it be known that bare breasts, human sacrifice and the like can be found among the artworks - never in a gratuitous manner, but yeah - this is a book for adults. The cartography by Robert Altbauer in full-color is amazing and the purple tone chosen for the ground further enhances the sense of weirdness. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks. The hardcover print-version is obviously made to last and with its sickly green cover, fits the theme rather well.

So, have you figured it out? Carcosa is a radical departure from fantasy dipping toes into " a bit" of mythos; it's also a radical departure from anything even resembling Tolkienesque fantasy and oh boy, is it better off for it! Carcosa reads, even nowadays, like an inspiring breath of dolm air, as Geoffrey McKinney weaves a yarn like a near-death fever-dream, like an opium-haze; horrific and enticing, suffused with a primal beauty, but also a land of savage horror, where colossal power may be gained by those willing to commit atrocities...at least until they are devoured. Carcosa is majestic in its imaginative vision and in the sheer detail it offers - it should come as no surprise from the above that I was horribly unimpressed by the rules-aspect of this book and frankly wished it had simply used one of the big OSR-rules-sets.

But then again, that is not how I'll ever use this book. Yes, I'll run Carcosa as a setting sooner or later, but for now, all of its ideas have this uncanny tendency to worm their way into my games, regardless of system employed. The rituals, described in horrid detail, the entities, the artifacts, the locations that are sure to invade PC-dreams of even those not on this planet...there are very few books that have ever managed to influence me...and other creative folks, to this extent.

I am late to the party, I know. But I've written this review mainly to showcase not the flaws of this book, but to highlight its indisputable value, regardless of system or even genre used. Heck, you can have a great change of pace while running a Traveller-game by having the PCs crash there! And yes, you'll see "Someone has obviously read Carcosa" in quite a few reviews to come - this book's influence transcends system-boundaries and, to an extent, genres. Heck, it spawns adventures left and right! Kort'thalis Publishing's "The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence", for example, just BEGS to be inserted into Carcosa...or act as a gateway to this wretched, wondrous place. Carcosa exists n a weird flux between fantasy, science-fiction, space-opera, horror and sword and sorcery and manages to sit there, upon this metaphorical Lake Hali of systems, confidently, proud, majestic...and utterly, utterly weird.

In short: This is a piece of gaming material that should imho be part of the collection of any self-respecting GM that can handle the mature themes, which may be dark, yes - but to me, the setting never felt that way. Instead, my prevalent feeling was one of wild-eyed wonder...and there are not that many books that can claim having accomplished this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, unsurprisingly...with one caveat. If you're looking for hard rules, if you're not looking for something to hack apart and make your own, then this may not be as useful for you; in such a case, detract a star. Everyone else should, at the very least, check out the pdf of this ulfire gem of a tome.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
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Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:35:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Campaign Guide/companion tome for the "What Lies Beyond Reason"-AP clocks in at an impressive 137 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 130 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a far and unbiased review.

Well, first of all, let us define what this book represents: This is basically a GM Guide, a deluxe-expansion edition for the AP that, while not strictly necessary, does greatly enhance the experience, as it elucidates the overall plot, its peculiarities and the themes of the AP. In short: It makes the experience of running and playing the AP more rewarding. It also, formula-wise, goes a significant step beyond what I would have expected from it.

In an aptly-written, massive section of introductory prose, we witness here, directly, the original catastrophe that put the events of the AP in motion...which poses a conundrum for me as a reviewer, for this section alone can SPOIL a significant part of the campaign....but it also ties in with many of the customization options provided herein....hence, let's remain silent on this topic, at least for now, and look at the spoiler-free sections of this guide.

First of all, this is a helping hand for the GM - it includes the stats of the BBEG and also features basically a mini-bestiary for the creatures in the AP, ranging from the previously-mentioned Psychic Motes to more dangerous and strange adversaries. It should be noted that, while not perfect, the stats generally are solidly build and make NPCs and monsters generally come to life. Fans of Rusted Iron Games and the Deadly Gardens series will certainly appreciate Russ Brown's handiwork in some of the creatures featured within. It should be noted that NPCs and creatures make good use of some fantastic 3pp-resources, properly credited not only in the SRD, but also in the text - big kudos there!

Beyond this, the pdf also takes a look at the massive cast of characters that may or may not live through the end of the prologue-adventure "Difficult Circumstances" and yields suggestions regarding the way these contacts and their relationship towards the PCs may develop, for good or ill. The attention to detail provided here is pretty interesting and impressive to witness, but speaking of detail: The massive metropolis of Anduria, aka The Eternal City, is depicted in a massive, lavishly-detailed gazetteer that includes maps of the respective districts and a lot of information beyond that allotted to the players.

Of course, a city is defined not only by its architecture or physical relics, but also by their people and hence, an optional reputation system is provided: This allows for the separate tracking of fame and infamy of the PCs - actions and consequences. Scrupulous grave-robbing can yield a reputation for being greedy, for example. While not required, this generally adds a nice touch to the procedings and taps into the district structure of the metropolis. It should be noted that the book also contains a metric ton of rumors, signs and foreshadowing that the GM can employ, adding even more immersion to the proceedings.

While we're at the subject of themes - the guide explains the function of the respective antagonists encountered during the AP and how they reflect/interact with the PCs - in short, it notes on how they are not necessarily meant for slaying, and that redemption is an actual possibility for almost everyone. The AP generates, in spite of taking place in a distinctly high-fantasy city, a general aesthetic of shades of gray morality with only few antagonists truly being "evil". This brings me to another theme that is important: While Anduria is exceedingly high-fantasy in many of its aspects, it is a city very much defined by a curious hesitation when it comes to religions - something that is actually concisely explained for the GM and an aspect that makes the plot work actually better than one would think at first. While a god, Rhion Barakar, patron saint of long shots and lost causes, takes an interest in the proceedings (yeah, does not bode well for those PCs, right?), death in this AP is quite possibly permanent and PCs raising the dead will soon see themselves hounded and beset on all fronts...a process logically defined and explained.

Speaking of themes: In a general absence of clearly defined lines of good and evil and within a city that comes with guards, potential punishments for crimes, etc., the mature themes used within the AP get EXTENSIVE consideration - and the AP is so much better off for it: There is e.g. a place that is a combination of a sage's library and an intellectual bordello/high-class escort service...but how explicit you make this is all up to you. Writing-wise, this is PG 13, and the same can be said about the themes of addiction, violence and insanity that all are leitmotifs to a certain degree, but never devolve into a truly explicit manner. The guidance regarding player-sensibilities help immensely here and do a great job helping the GM to customize the campaign.

Speaking of which: One of the crucial leitmotifs of the campaign is one that is a bit of a matter of taste...and it can be completely excluded from the campaign...or emphasized with specific signs and portents. The book also contains several set-piece encounters/sidetrek modules and guidance regarding the use of different XP-progressions - including an option to include the superb "Key to Marina" into the sequence.

...and it is here, ultimately, that I have not recourse but to go into SPOILERS, if I want to continue discussing this book. PLAYERS BEWARE. The following contains SPOILERS for the WHOLE CAMPAIGN. Do not read ahead unless you want to GM this AP!!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Don't say I did not warn you! So, the skepticism towards the divine in the city? It has a very good reason. You see, a couple of incarnations of the eternal city before, the demi-god Aether almost brought doom upon the world. He was taking the city by storm, courtesy of him being a god you could touch, but unbeknown to his faithful, he was insane, as the megalomaniacal introductory chapter so perfectly illustrates: In his travels, he has been touched by the Outer Dark, namely R'lyeh, and while it broke his mind, he recovered, obsessed with bringing the city back...and in conjunction with the regular world. Under Anduria, there lies a chthonic Machine of titanic proportions, leaking vileness and power...and Aether succeeded in activating the titanic device, courtesy of a deal with none other than Asmodeus...as he was ripping the souls from his betrayed faithful, the lord of Hell struck with guile. Having sown seeds of doubt, Aether's high priestess, stunned by his madness and betrayal, assassinated her divine lord...and thus, the tragedy began, for her spirit, doomed and confined to the city's bloodlines, has been guiding the fortunes of the city ever since, as she, in her divine punishment and insanity, seeks to make amends. Meanwhile, Aether's soul slipped away, escaping Asmodeus' grasp - which is why the Seekers, Asmodean loan-sharks and hunters have been created...and it explains how they could become basically a kind of second city watch...and it explains the resentment towards the gods that still exists in the enlightened metropolis, even though this horrid event lies buried in the past.

As you may have noted, this all implies, to a degree, an existence of the mythos and cthulhiana - and if you're like me and a bit oversaturated in that regard or just unsure whether you want to use this angle, rest assure that the guide provides all the information required to get rid of it...or enforce it further, all depending on your tastes.

While the book does contain a summary of the campaign's plot and advice on handling the NPCs, I am not going to dive deeper into spoilers there...instead, let us talk about the sidetreks, all right? The first would be a pretty generic sidetrek, in case the PCs incur a debt to an NPC at one point. The second and third one are basically mini-dungeons - expansions, to be more precise: During adventure #1 and #2 of the AP (reviews forthcoming!), enterprising GMs may very well face the option of PCs astute PCs exploring the tunnels below the city, leading towards the machine...if they realize their presence. Where another AP would just leave that to the GM with a shrug, we get two really challenging and potentially lethal sidetreks into this strange environment, foreshadowing the shape of things to come and engaging in some seriously impressive indirect storytelling there. Chances are that most groups won't find these, sure...but their inclusion bespeaks the passion and vision that went into this.

This is not where the pdf stops, however - after adventure #2, Luther Mendel (nice nomenclature there!), associate of Damian and master of the Academy of Natural Magic seems curiously absent...but not if you're using this book, for none other than Richard Develyn of 4 Dollar Dungeons, one of the best adventure-writers I know, provides a fully-mapped module here, one that focuses on the humanoid plant-species of Ghorans and the fact that Mendel has found a Gourd that seems to be an aberrations to the Ghorans...and these beings are a bit paranoid, as they are considered to be somewhat of a delicacy for some humanoids...Thus, the PCs in this module will have to prevent a series on attacks on the academy...only to see Luther present a rapidly-growing humanoid who is learning at a vastly accelerated race...and who is basically becoming one of the PCs...only better in every way. This duplicate, "Pat", is actually the second such seed, as the first has replaced Luther...you see, this being, which also is manipulating the Ghorans, to an extent, ultimately poses a difficult conundrum for the PCs...and even the players: It can replace the PC with a superior double...one that the player gets to play...but the ethics in game should be disturbing, to say the least: It is pretty clear that the germination process will kill the original...so what will it be?

It should be noted that this is the cliff-notes version of the module and does not do it justice...but the weirdness and profound creepiness of the whole set-up gets a resounding thumbs up from me - as far as I'm concerned, this and the customization options alone make this worth the asking price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level; while I noticed glitches in both, these generally were not pronounced enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the campaign guide. Layout adheres to a really nice and professional 2-column full-color standard and the book features quite a lot of REALLY nice full-color artworks (same quality as the one you see on the cover...). The pdf btw. comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - big kudos there! Cartography is in full-color as well and comes with all relevant maps, in lavish full-color and, better yet, key-less, player-friendly versions, perfect for use with VTTs. Big, big kudos. E.g. a park, with a plethora of different plants and leaf-colors and -structures makes clear that these have been made with surprising attention to detail. The titanic, high-res overview map of the metropolis is similarly appreciated. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though, frankly, I'd suggest getting the softcover - the campaign guide makes for a nice, unobtrusive book to flip open while running one of the modules and the book is nice enough to warrant getting.

Micah Watt's "What Lies Beyond Reason" is an extremely ambitious AP; while the prologue did hint at that, it is this book that makes this fact abundantly clear. The impressive aspect here, though, would be that, at least for now, I can say that it looks like it'll work out! You see, the city and its history, themes, all of that...it makes sense. The customization options are helpful and the culture grown here has its roots deeply secluded away from prying eyes...but the PCs will find them, sooner or later. The prose is excellent as far as I'm concerned - when you can write a book, include monsters by Russ brown and a module by Richard Develyn, and manage to not look like an totally green amateur while doing so, then you obviously have talent.

The customization options for the city also really put a smile on my face: Don't like airships? No problem, can be cut. Don't like leitmotif mentioned in SPOILER-section? You can reskin that and/or get rid of it. These considerations, the advice given and the way in which this handles the whole NPC-presentation and explanation make this a really compelling book - more than one adventure-writer would certainly benefit from taking a couple of the design-tenets into account: You see, while challenging, the AP is all about consequences...and if the PCs behave stupidly, they may well reap a horrid, horrid comeuppance. This, in short, shares A LOT of my own aesthetics and expectations in design; the roleplaying focus is pronounced and the seemingly clashing themes actually blend together. In short: This is a rather impressive book and certainly one I'd wholeheartedly recommend - also as a possible means of gauging whether the AP will interest you. (And yes, I am pretty sure it will!) - After reading this, I found myself infinitely more excited about the AP than I was after the linear prologue...though even that module gains a lot by contextualizing it...but you'll see.

What I'm trying to say is this: Get this and support this AP. I am pretty convinced that we'll get to see a lot of really, really awesome modules from this saga! While this may not be 100% perfect, it is an amazing, flavorful book and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:32:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Campaign Guide/companion tome for the "What Lies Beyond Reason"-AP clocks in at an impressive 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 131 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a far and unbiased review.

Well, first of all, let us define what this book represents: This is basically a GM Guide, a deluxe-expansion edition for the AP that, while not strictly necessary, does greatly enhance the experience, as it elucidates the overall plot, its peculiarities and the themes of the AP. In short: It makes the experience of running and playing the AP more rewarding. It also, formula-wise, goes a significant step beyond what I would have expected from it.

In an aptly-written, massive section of introductory prose, we witness here, directly, the original catastrophe that put the events of the AP in motion...which poses a conundrum for me as a reviewer, for this section alone can SPOIL a significant part of the campaign....but it also ties in with many of the customization options provided herein....hence, let's remain silent on this topic, at least for now, and look at the spoiler-free sections of this guide.

First of all, this is a helping hand for the GM - it includes the stats of the BBEG and also features basically a mini-bestiary for the creatures in the AP, ranging from the previously-mentioned Psychic Motes to more dangerous and strange adversaries. It should be noted that, while not perfect, the stats generally are solidly build and make NPCs and monsters generally come to life. Fans of Rusted Iron Games and the Deadly Gardens series will certainly appreciate Russ Brown's handiwork in some of the creatures featured within. The conversion to 5e of these rules-relevant aspects, however, is a bit of a double-edged sword - if one takes, for example, a quick glance at the Ghoran-race featured in one of the optional sidetreks, one will note formatting discrepancies from the standard that, alas, carry over to the monster statblocks. Natural armor for a PC race and its interaction with armors etc. would have warranted more discussion as well - while not bad per se, this can lead to a bit of confusion before precedence cases are consulted.

Beyond this, the pdf also takes a look at the massive cast of characters that may or may not live through the end of the prologue-adventure "Difficult Circumstances" and yields suggestions regarding the way these contacts and their relationship towards the PCs may develop, for good or ill. The attention to detail provided here is pretty interesting and impressive to witness, but speaking of detail: The massive metropolis of Anduria, aka The Eternal City, is depicted in a massive, lavishly-detailed gazetteer that includes maps of the respective districts and a lot of information beyond that allotted to the players. It should be noted that the book also contains a metric ton of rumors, signs and foreshadowing that the GM can employ, adding even more immersion to the proceedings.

Of course, a city is defined not only by its architecture or physical relics, but also by their people and hence, an optional reputation system is provided: This allows for the separate tracking of fame and infamy of the PCs - actions and consequences. Scrupulous grave-robbing can yield a reputation for being greedy, for example. While not required, this generally adds a nice touch to the proceedings and taps into the district structure of the metropolis - or at least, it did so for Pathfinder. It is pretty evident that this section has not been properly translated - typed penalties, a lot of small number-accounting...for 5e, this system seems woefully inadequate. That's a rather significant downside there...but on the plus-side, we also have some conversion aspects that really work well: When NPCs use cool material from Tribality Publishing (properly acknowledged in the text itself, beyond the SRD!) and when we get an urban spell-.list for circle of the land druids, we can see that there is some serious care to be found here. Similarly, damage types saves etc. generally make sense, so yeah - while not perfect, the conversion can be called good in many regards even very good.

While we're at the subject of themes - the guide explains the function of the respective antagonists encountered during the AP and how they reflect/interact with the PCs - in short, it notes on how they are not necessarily meant for slaying, and that redemption is an actual possibility for almost everyone. The AP generates, in spite of taking place in a distinctly high-fantasy city, a general aesthetic of shades of gray morality with only few antagonists truly being "evil". This brings me to another theme that is important: While Anduria is exceedingly high-fantasy in many of its aspects, it is a city very much defined by a curious hesitation when it comes to religions - something that is actually concisely explained for the GM and an aspect that makes the plot work actually better than one would think at first. While a god, Rhion Barakar, patron saint of long shots and lost causes, takes an interest in the proceedings (yeah, does not bode well for those PCs, right?), death in this AP is quite possibly permanent and PCs raising the dead will soon see themselves hounded and beset on all fronts...a process logically defined and explained.

Speaking of themes: In a general absence of clearly defined lines of good and evil and within a city that comes with guards, potential punishments for crimes, etc., the mature themes used within the AP get EXTENSIVE consideration - and the AP is so much better off for it: There is e.g. a place that is a combination of a sage's library and an intellectual bordello/high-class escort service...but how explicit you make this is all up to you. Writing-wise, this is PG 13, and the same can be said about the themes of addiction, violence and insanity that all are leitmotifs to a certain degree, but never devolve into a truly explicit manner. The guidance regarding player-sensibilities help immensely here and do a great job helping the GM to customize the campaign.

Speaking of which: One of the crucial leitmotifs of the campaign is one that is a bit of a matter of taste...and it can be completely excluded from the campaign...or emphasized with specific signs and portents. The book also contains several set-piece encounters/sidetrek modules. Since 5e does not have the variant XP-progressions, that section is a bit condensed here.

...and it is here, ultimately, that I have not recourse but to go into SPOILERS, if I want to continue discussing this book. PLAYERS BEWARE. The following contains SPOILERS for the WHOLE CAMPAIGN. Do not read ahead unless you want to GM this AP!!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Don't say I did not warn you! So, the skepticism towards the divine in the city? It has a very good reason. You see, a couple of incarnations of the eternal city before, the demi-god Aether almost brought doom upon the world. He was taking the city by storm, courtesy of him being a god you could touch, but unbeknown to his faithful, he was insane, as the megalomaniacal introductory chapter so perfectly illustrates: In his travels, he has been touched by the Outer Dark, namely R'lyeh, and while it broke his mind, he recovered, obsessed with bringing the city back...and in conjunction with the regular world. Under Anduria, there lies a chthonic Machine of titanic proportions, leaking vileness and power...and Aether succeeded in activating the titanic device, courtesy of a deal with none other than Asmodeus...as he was ripping the souls from his betrayed faithful, the lord of Hell struck with guile. Having sown seeds of doubt, Aether's high priestess, stunned by his madness and betrayal, assassinated her divine lord...and thus, the tragedy began, for her spirit, doomed and confined to the city's bloodlines, has been guiding the fortunes of the city ever since, as she, in her divine punishment and insanity, seeks to make amends. Meanwhile, Aether's soul slipped away, escaping Asmodeus' grasp - which is why the Seekers, Asmodean loan-sharks and hunters have been created...and it explains how they could become basically a kind of second city watch...and it explains the resentment towards the gods that still exists in the enlightened metropolis, even though this horrid event lies buried in the past.

As you may have noted, this all implies, to a degree, an existence of the mythos and cthulhiana - and if you're like me and a bit oversaturated in that regard or just unsure whether you want to use this angle, rest assure that the guide provides all the information required to get rid of it...or enforce it further, all depending on your tastes.

While the book does contain a summary of the campaign's plot and advice on handling the NPCs, I am not going to dive deeper into spoilers there...instead, let us talk about the sidetreks, all right? The first would be a pretty generic sidetrek, in case the PCs incur a debt to an NPC at one point. The second and third one are basically mini-dungeons - expansions, to be more precise: During adventure #1 and #2 of the AP (reviews forthcoming!), enterprising GMs may very well face the option of PCs astute PCs exploring the tunnels below the city, leading towards the machine...if they realize their presence. Where another AP would just leave that to the GM with a shrug, we get two really challenging and potentially lethal sidetreks into this strange environment, foreshadowing the shape of things to come and engaging in some seriously impressive indirect storytelling there. Chances are that most groups won't find these, sure...but their inclusion bespeaks the passion and vision that went into this.

This is not where the pdf stops, however - after adventure #2, Luther Mendel (nice nomenclature there!), associate of Damian and master of the Academy of Natural Magic seems curiously absent...but not if you're using this book, for none other than Richard Develyn of 4 Dollar Dungeons, one of the best adventure-writers I know, provides a fully-mapped module here, one that focuses on the humanoid plant-species of Ghorans and the fact that Mendel has found a Gourd that seems to be an aberrations to the Ghorans...and these beings are a bit paranoid, as they are considered to be somewhat of a delicacy for some humanoids...Thus, the PCs in this module will have to prevent a series on attacks on the academy...only to see Luther present a rapidly-growing humanoid who is learning at a vastly accelerated race...and who is basically becoming one of the PCs...only better in every way. This duplicate, "Pat", is actually the second such seed, as the first has replaced Luther...you see, this being, which also is manipulating the Ghorans, to an extent, ultimately poses a difficult conundrum for the PCs...and even the players: It can replace the PC with a superior double...one that the player gets to play...but the ethics in game should be disturbing, to say the least: It is pretty clear that the germination process will kill the original...so what will it be?

It should be noted that this is the cliff-notes version of the module and does not do it justice...but the weirdness and profound creepiness of the whole set-up gets a resounding thumbs up from me - as far as I'm concerned, this and the customization options alone make this worth the asking price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though some parts of the formatting and some of the 5E-conversion bits feel like they do not live up to the PFRPG-version. They are good, mind you, and my complaints are, in many cases, rather esoteric and aesthetic, but as a whole, the formal criteria of the PFRPG-version felt a bit tighter to me. Layout adheres to a really nice and professional 2-column full-color standard and the book features quite a lot of REALLY nice full-color artworks (same quality as the one you see on the cover...). The pdf btw. comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - big kudos there! Cartography is in full-color as well and comes with all relevant maps, in lavish full-color and, better yet, key-less, player-friendly versions, perfect for use with VTTs. Big, big kudos. E.g. a park, with a plethora of different plants and leaf-colors and -structures makes clear that these have been made with surprising attention to detail. The titanic, high-res overview map of the metropolis is similarly appreciated. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though, frankly, I'd suggest getting the softcover - the campaign guide makes for a nice, unobtrusive book to flip open while running one of the modules and the book is nice enough to warrant getting.

Micah Watt's "What Lies Beyond Reason" is an extremely ambitious AP; while the prologue did hint at that, it is this book that makes this fact abundantly clear. The impressive aspect here, though, would be that, at least for now, I can say that it looks like it'll work out! You see, the city and its history, themes, all of that...it makes sense. The customization options are helpful and the culture grown here has its roots deeply secluded away from prying eyes...but the PCs will find them, sooner or later. The prose is excellent as far as I'm concerned - when you can write a book, include monsters by Russ brown and a module by Richard Develyn, and manage to not look like an totally green amateur while doing so, then you obviously have talent.

The customization options for the city also really put a smile on my face: Don't like airships? No problem, can be cut. Don't like leitmotif mentioned in SPOILER-section? You can reskin that and/or get rid of it. These considerations, the advice given and the way in which this handles the whole NPC-presentation and explanation make this a really compelling book - more than one adventure-writer would certainly benefit from taking a couple of the design-tenets into account: You see, while challenging, the AP is all about consequences...and if the PCs behave stupidly, they may well reap a horrid, horrid comeuppance. This, in short, shares A LOT of my own aesthetics and expectations in design; the roleplaying focus is pronounced and the seemingly clashing themes actually blend together. In short: This is a rather impressive book and certainly one I'd wholeheartedly recommend - also as a possible means of gauging whether the AP will interest you. (And yes, I am pretty sure it will!) - After reading this, I found myself infinitely more excited about the AP than I was after the linear prologue...though even that module gains a lot by contextualizing it...but you'll see.

What I'm trying to say is this: Get this and support this AP. The complaints I do have regarding 5E are, in many cases cosmetic and the "Gourd"-adventure alone may make this worth getting. The extensive and amazing player-map support also really helps and the AP, at least from what I can discern after having played its first 4 modules and the material herein, is worth supporting. While I can't rate the per se lovingly-made 5E-version as highly as the PFRPG-iteration, this is still an impressive book - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Mythic Monsters #43: Africa
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:28:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!

All right, as always in the series, we begin with supplemental material - this time around, we get a total of 7 traps, ranging from CR 3 to 15 and using classics from the Indiana Jones movies: Broken lights, valuable idol, snake pit...you get the theme there. Notable: They all come with means to bypass them beyond rolling Disable Device, which is a huge plus, design-aesthetics-wise, as far as I'm concerned. Beyond these traps, we also are introduced to a total of 5 new magic items and a new artifact.

These items include a compass to keep one's bearing, an enchanted machete that allows for the relatively easy traversing of natural difficult terrain (via actions, even really nasty terrain can be taken care of), a jawbone shield that helps versus being grabbed via bites and may even bite in retaliation. Primeval brooches are pretty straight numerical enhancers and verminous beacons can keep the biting critters at bay. The artifact, the atlas esoterica contains delightfully obscure information - atlas obscura, anyone?

All right, as always, we should move on from these solid supplemental materials to the critters, and this time around, we begin with the CR 5/MR 2 amphiptere, who receives blood lust and may employ mythic power to temporarily gain flight via uses of mythic power...and impaling creatures will be more lethal as well for the victims of these predators. At CR 1/MR 1, the much loathed pugwampi can create traps sans gold etc. and the build actually features some cool sample traps...oh, and rolling 1s in their aura actually becomes pretty painful...and your players thought they'd hate the regular pugwampi...

On the diametrical opposite end of the power-spectrum, at a mighty CR 20/MR 8, the grootslang (literally: Greatsnake, just fyi!), the strange amalgam of elephant and snake, can sense the presence of gems and heal itself via the devouring of gems. They gain a grounding stomp (that can also AoE smash foes to the ground), Awesome Blow tail attacks via mythic power expenditure and control over both elephants and snakes and immunity versus polymorphs...all in all, a deadly foe.

The mythic jackalwere (CR 3/MR 1) can employ its mythic power to duplicate hallucinatory terrain with added debuffs - decent one. At the same CR/MR, juvenile seps can spit acidic blood and use mythic power to extend its reach, which is pretty cool. The adult version of this creature, btw., clocks in at CR 13/MR 5 and sports an upgrade of these abilities as well as a crushing bite. The Lukwata, at the same CR/MR, receives blood rage, a loathing of crocodiles and they gain better DR. Their magic digestion is also improved, getting interaction with extradimensional spaces etc. right and the antimagic-theme is also further underscored...kudos there!

The classic Kamadan clocks in at CR 5/MR 2 is all about predator-stlye efficiency and as such, they are brutal...mythic power for six snake attacks...ouch...and cool: We actually get the dusk and polar variants as well! Two thumbs up for making this one makes sense! The CR 18/MR 7 kongamato can execute devastating dive-bombing assaults and these fearsome beings may lace their breath with shattering harmonics...awesome!

The living mirage clocks in at CR 11/MR 4 and has a cool regeneration ability that interacts with the wind vulnerability and it can actually use mythic power to cancel wind,,, and as a whole emphasis its weird and unique nature even more than the already rather cool base creature. At the same MR/CR, the mobogo can feign its death and receives poisonous skin as well as a hypnotic gaze: Using mythic power to shed skin and regenerate also makes for a great boss ability.

Mythic popobalas, at CR 18/MR 7 add Charisma damage to rends, may use mythic power to enhance their signature fever and these beings can AoE-Intimidate foes, copy sounds and heals when in the vicinity of those suffering from several negative conditions...oh, and they are particularly adept at turning friends against foes....cool!

The new critter herein would be the emela-ntouka, at CR 8/MR 3, and this new critter is amazing, vaguely serpentine or rhino-like, their horns can provide deadly impaling attacks and they can actually lift prey, making for a compelling critter of the "efficient, believable quasi-natural predator" type, ending the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Loren Sieg, Mike Welham and Jason Nelson deliver one of the installments in the series that perfectly shows why I love this series. The upgrades for the creatures take the respective roles of the creatures perfectly into account; we have an increased emphasis on mythological abilities and an emphasis of unique and powerful abilities that help the respective beings, making them universally cooler. In short: This is a great supplement and with its amazing critters, makes for a must-ow installment of the series. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #43: Africa
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Spiritualists of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 07:46:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content. It should be noted that these are formatted for an A5-paper-size (roughly 6'' by 9''), so you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, if you're conscious of ink/toner costs and want this printed.

We begin this pdf with new archetypes, the first of which would be the ectofletcher, who adds Stealth to his list of class skills and gains proficiency with all bows and crossbow, as well as with light armor. Starting at 1st level, the archetype may, as a full-round action, manifest 20 arrows. Alternatively, 5 may be created as a standard or move action or 1 arrow as a swift action. Starting at 2nd level, these are treated as +1 arrows, while 4th level increases the range increment of any bow used by 20 ft. At 6th level, the arrows are upgraded to +2 and are treated as the alignment of the ectofletcher for the purpose of overcoming DR, which may be a bit soon when compared to other classes. 8th level yield ghost touch arrows (here, the text has a remnant (i) before the weapon property - i.e. the italicization-closing is missing - but hey, at least you can see that it's supposed to be italicized) and at this level, arrows can be fired in melee sans provoking AoOs. 10th level increases the arrows to +3, 12th level nets Critical Focus for all bows used. As a minor nitpick here: RAW, it is pretty obvious that these should also work for crossbows, with the ammunition-creation being applicable for bolts as well - but as written, this only works for bows and arrows...but that just as an aside. 14th level provides an upgrade to +4 and 18th level to +5. At 16th level, we get a bonus combat feat. This eliminates etheric tether, phantom, shared consciousness, spiritual bond, fused consciousness and empowered consciousness.

At 3rd level can make all ranged attacks at a penalty of -2 to the attack roll, while simultaneously casting a spiritualist spell (nice catch to prevent multiclass abuse!) with a casting time of a standard action. During this combined assault, when casting defensively, the spiritualist may incur a penalty to attacks of up to Wisdom modifier to gain an equal bonus to the concentration check. So far, so nice, right? Well, the ectofletcher may also deliver touch spells through the arrows as ranged touch attacks. This is per se very powerful - particularly since it does not specify how critical multipliers interact with these - since bows start off at x3...well, you get the idea. That...is a problem. This part of the ability can use a whack with the nerf-bat, even though bonded manifestation, phantom recall and dual bond are lost for it. At 4th level, the archetype gains +4 to Stealth when manifesting ectofletching, which is upgraded to +8 at 12th level. All in all an intriguing archetype, though the touch tricks may be a bit too much - gaining more flexibility for the ammunition would have probably constitutes a more rewarding experience here.

The false spiritualist is interesting and loses proficiency with light armor. The archetype also gain arcane spellcasting governed by Intelligence and they completely change their phantoms, instead creating so-called contrived phantoms, constructs of ectoplasm. These are constructs, don't grant skills or skill bonuses, have no emotional focus and lack both Con and Int scores - as such, it is under the command of the character. It replaces the Dex/Cha-bonus with a Str/Dex-bonus, has no good saves, is mindless and gets low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft., immunity to mind-affecting effects, diseases, death effects, paralysis, poison, sleep effects and stunning as well as an evolution pool equal to the phantom's HD, with its customization options equal to an eidolon of the same level. The fly speed gained at 9th level is reduced to 30 ft. (clumsy), it cannot heal damage on its own (OUCH!) and gains the usual other defensive construct immunities. Upon destruction, the phantom reforms at 1/2 maximum hit points the next time the spiritualist prepares spells. Instead of detect undead, calm spirit, see invisibility, fused consciousness and call spirit, the archetype gains bonus illusion spells. I really like the idea here and the execution isn't too bad either - however, one note to bear in mind would be that this, via bonded manifestation etc., can make for a very summoner-ish playing experience and we know how potent these eidolon tricks can be. That being said, the lack of healing imposes an interesting resource-drain here and the bad saves help offset the massive immunity array. In short - not for every group, but I can see it finding fans.

The occult bowler is where things get WEIRD. And I mean "WTF, did not expect that!" levels of weird. The class gains a magic ball, which can be envisioned as somewhere between a familiar and a bonded object. This Tiny construct can be used as a divination magic 8-ball...or as a weapon. This weird feature replaces shared consciousness and phantom,,, and here things become interesting: When wielding the magic ball, the character treats his class level as BAB, with the attacks counting as magic from the get-go. At 2nd level, as a standard action, the character can gain blindsight of its ball for up to class level rounds, which is upgraded to always on at 10th level (though here, we erroneously refer to it as teleblindsight. This ability also yields the option to shunt a mind-affecting effect into the magic ball. 3rd level adds the throwing and returning properties to the weapon function - and no, these do NOT feature in the calculation for enhancements for the magic ball. At 8th level and every 5 levels thereafter, range increments of the ball increase by 5 ft., replacing bonded manifestation thus. At 4th level, the archetype alters spiritual interference to grant a +2 shield bonus to AC when wielding the ball and a +2 circumstance bonus to all saves. 6th level alters phantom recall to instead apply to the magic ball, with 1 daily use, +1/day per 4 levels beyond the 6th. At 12th level, these bonuses increase to +4 for the bowler, and allies in the ball's reach gain the non-upgraded bonuses.

14th level yields spiritual bond, which prevents death by siphoning excess damage taken by the bowler beyond 1 hp to the ball. Instead of dual bond, we get 1/week legend lore as a SP and as a capstone, the bowler becomes immune to mind-affecting effects and possession/imprisonment-style spells. This archetype looks goofy at first...but once you take a close look, it actually is really creative and pretty darn amazing. Big kudos here!

The phantom whisperer alters proficiencies, gaining simple weapons, light armors and up to 3 firearms of the player's choice. The archetype has no choice over the type of phantom gained - each level, they must roll a d12 and look at a random table - this determines the emotional focus of the phantom. Instead of bonded sense, they add Wisdom modifier to initiative...and thankfully, this does not stack with Improved Initiative, preventing abuse there. 10th level alters fused consciousness to just gain the skill ranks and bonuses even when the phantom's manifested and allows for the shunting of mind-affecting effects even when the phantom is manifested, though that dismisses the phantom. So yeah, no bonded senses. At 10th level, when succumbing to a fear-effect, the character may make an attack at the highest BAB (no AoO!) as an immediate action BEFORE the effects of fear kick in. Interesting one.

Next up is the Ruined Preacher - at the GM's discretion, ex-cleric levels can be exchanged for these, which is a flavorful and interesting character development idea here. The archetype gains no spiritualist caster level or spells and instead gains Improved Unarmed Strike, using his class level as BAB for the purpose of determining its efficiency, basing the damage on a brawler of an equal level. Maneuver training is included. 5th level yields command at-will with a 24-hour hex-caveat to avoid abuse. 7th level yields 1/day calm emotions, with +1 use per 4 levels beyond that. 9th level yields 1/day suggestion as an SP, replacing detect spirit, calm undead and see invisibility. Guess someone loves the Preacher comics and TV-series as much as I do. ;) Honestly, really love this one!

There are also new phantom options included herein, the first of which would be dream phantoms, who gain d6 HD and only 1/2 BAB, but they do have dual emotional focus and have a healing while the spiritualist sleeps. Pretty nice. Genius phantoms change the base stats to Int 13 and Cha 7 and their attribute bonuses instead apply to Dex and Int. Instead of an emotional focus, they gain thought foci, of which 4 are provided: Application nets Acrobatics and Fly, good Ref and Fort-saves, Improved Initiative, and as a move action, they can apply Int-bonus to a standard action (not the biggest fan here), with 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter yielding combat feats. The Knowledge focus nets two Knowledge skills, good Fort- and Will-saves and acts as a living book or spellbook, containing 50 pages per HD; +1/2 class level to all Knowledge skill checks and may make these untrained. 7th level yields the option to take 10 and 1/day take 20 there as a standard action, +1/day at 12th and 17th level.

The synthesis focus nets Craft and Disable Device, good Fort- and Ref-saves and they reduce the cost of crafted items by 10%. As a standard action, a touch can offset the broken condition for HD rounds. 5th and 10th level reduce that to a move and swift action, respectively. These can also create a limited amount of regular items - alas, the option does not include a no-specific item caveat...though its limits prevent abuse to an extent. 7th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield a no-cost magic item, but it is limited by the spiritualist CL and spells. The understanding focus yields Appraise and Sense Motive, Reflex and Will as good saves and the genius can make Int-checks as though the score was 2 points higher. They also gain sneak attack at class level, but use d4 as damage dice. 7th level and every 5 levels beyond yield a rogue talent.

Realm phantoms come in 8 iterations that reflect a planar focus - basically, you add a template determined by the associated plane. These generally grant a couple of defensive abilities and a bit of elemental damage - however, one has e.g. holy damage, anarchic damage, etc. - and these damage types do not exist in PFRPG. I get what they're supposed to do, but see alignment-based spells and effects for the proper way to codify damage types thus.

Beyond this, we also are introduced to new feats, 5 to be more precise: Ancestral Revelation yields an Ancestor mystery revelation. Grateful Dead (kudos for the nod) nets your phantom +2 to its weakest save, courtesy of you honoring its past life. Reaper Style is used with scythes - when you trip a target, the phantom gets an AoO as an immediate action against it if in reach. Cool! Reaper's Evisceration adds +Wisdom bonus to damage rolls when attacking helpless, flat-footed or prone creatures with the scythe and finally, Reaper's Evisceration requires saves from targets reduced to negative hp to avoid death. Cool, flavorful combat style here!

We close with the Staff of Iricthan, a minor artifact, of which there ostensibly are 4 in existence - a wielder can, every day, choose the spells known afresh and metamagic employed is one spell level increase less costly. Very interesting artifact!

The pdf btw. comes with a bonus-file, penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, which contains Zithemerr, a catfolk arcane trickster 15 - nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on both a formal and rules-level - while there are a couple of glitches, these generally fall into the "kinda aesthetic" category. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' one-column-standard in b/w with purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a really nice full-color artwork of the occult bowler and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Hollingsworth's take on uncommon spiritualist options began rather weak and then proceeded to build up steam: While the first two archetypes left me somewhat underwhelmed and concerned, this changed pretty fast with some serious gems: The occult bowler is awesome, the chaotic phantom focus is a cool idea (though I wished it had been more deeply ingrained, theme-wise, in the archetype) and the preacher-option should put a smile on many a fan's face - I know it did that for me. The foci of the phantoms are universally interesting, with the magic item creation's limit being almost genius in its simplicity. The planar phantoms left me a bit underwhelmed, though. Surprisingly, I liked all feats and the artifact is an interesting, very potent tool to level the playing field versus prepared casters, help PCs that have made bad choices, etc.

In short: No, this is NOT perfect. However, the amount of material herein that I consider really creative and cool exceeds the potential snags you're likely to encounter. The ratio of glitches to pretty complex concepts that work is also right, showing a generally very good understanding of complex rules-language. In short - unless you're a nitpicky bastard like me, you'll probably be exceedingly happy with this, for the pdf also offers some seriously creative and cool options...and all that for a more than fair price point. As a whole, I hence feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars...and I'll round up for the purpose of this platform, since the highlights exceed the minor blemishes.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spiritualists of Porphyra
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Everyman Minis: Childhood Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 07:44:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with two pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, first of all - these feats are intended for use with the extremely impressive Childhood Adventures-sourcebook. If you don't already have it, consider getting it.

The focus in this installment would, obviously, be feats with the Child-descriptor, though two story feats can also be found herein - you know these undoubtedly from Ultimate Campaign. And yes, I am a pronounced fan of the concept. Child-feats, just btw., come with a proper maturation benefit that is pretty much analogue with this.

Anyways, without further ado, here are the feats:

-Fresh Outlook: +2 save to disbelieve illusions and to Sense Motive to sense enchantments and Perception to notice invisible foes; upon maturation, you may select e.g. Discerning Eye, Psychic Sensitivity or the like - makes sense. Nice one.

-Sore Loser: This is a panache feat and lets you spend panache to reroll rolled 1s on ability or skill checks, attack rolls and saves, but with a -2 penalty. You may continue to spend panache this way for further rerolls, but the penalties are cumulative. I LOVE how this blends sore losers in game with gamers sore about botching a roll. I can see this. Upon maturation, it turns into a panache feat or a swashbuckler's dare.

-Voce Bianca: When you spend a free action to maintain bardic performance or raging song, you may expend an additional daily round to target a foe that can see and hear the performance with a sonic-damage-causing note that causes deafness for 1 round, with a Fort-save to negate deafness and halve damage. This feat MUST be exchanged upon maturation and the options, once again, make sense.

Now, the story feats featured herein would first be Biggest fan: You idolize a real or fictional person and 1/day may draw upon your inspiration to reroll a natural on an attack, CL-check to dispel or overcome SR or a skill check. Upon fulfilling the goal of gaining the target's respect/living up the legend/mythos, you may use this +Cha-mod times per day and gain a +2 bonus to such rerolls. Minor aesthetic complaint: The "Special"-line is not bolded - if you lose faith in an idol, you may replace it with a new feat...or a new idol.

The second story feat herein would be Lost Family, which is pretty self-explanatory. Its benefits yield you +1 to CMD, Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride and Swim. Upon gaining closure/reuniting with the family, you gain +1 to Charisma checks, Charisma-based skill-checks and Will-saves...but being separated once again may have consequences. This one is okay, but mechanically, the completion benefits feel a bit off to me.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect on a formal level. On a rules-level, the pdf leaves nothing to be desired. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming's two-column standard and the page containing the feats is b/w and as such, printer-friendly. The pdf does sport nice full-color artworks. We don't have bookmarks, but don't need them here.

Margherita Tramontano delivers here. Impressively so. With only one feat that I consider "only" good, this pdf is bereft of filler material and manages to juggle complex concepts rather well. Sore Loser and Voce Bianca in particular made me smile from ear to ear. So yeah - flavorful, well-crafted, lacking any ability to cheese them - even with my exceedingly high standards for feats these days, I can't complain here. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Childhood Feats
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